Professor Nancy Agabian
19 February 2014
Mistakes That Can Change Your Life
The other day I sat in a chair, like the one they use at the dentist’s office, with a lense placed over my eye. The man at the other end was the cornea specialist I always go to –Richard Gibraltar. He was adjusting a laser beam that would create a microscopic hole in my iris in a procedure called an iridotomy. Iridotomies are usually used when people are at risk for or have acute narrow angle glaucoma due to something called a “…pupillary block…” (“Prognostic Factors for the Success of Laser Iridotomy for Acute Primary Angle Closure Glaucoma”). Factors Since my pupil’s muscles were damaged due to two massive eye infections, my pupil does not move as well as it used to. To help fluid movement in my eye, my eye doctor had to create a tiny hole in my iris with a laser. This hole acts almost like a faux pupil and helps to keep my eye pressure down. If I don’t keep my eye pressure down, it could severely damage my eye’s retina and I could go totally blind in one eye. Unfortunately in that eye, I already have blurred vision, even with glasses on. I miss the days when both my eyes functioned almost perfectly before my second massive infection.
When I was just a baby, I apparently had a strange, isolated infection in my right eye. This infection caused me to have severe inflammation in the posterior section of my eye and, as a result, it scarred down some muscles in the back part of my eye that helped it dilate. When I was around ten, my eye doctor discovered the issue when he tried to dilate my right eye’s pupil with some drops. The pupil would not dilate like a regular pupil. After that appointment, my doctor said I most likely had a condition caused by uveitis, which is simply inflammation in the eye. I remember I was in complete shock when I learned about it because my parents never noticed or suspected that I had a severe eye infection. Often, people develop uveitis when they have some kind of autoimmune disorder or have a major infection (Mayo Clinic). The only eye infection I had heard of at that age was pink eye and just about everyone gets pink eye. Unfortunately, there was nothing he could do about it, even with all the steroid drops he had me take. The scarring never went away and remains with me till this day. I noticed a long time ago that I had bad night vision in that eye but never understood why until that appointment. It was particularly noticeable when I was outside in an area without any street lights, such as a forest or a country road. The outlines of objects in the moonlight were always much sharper in my left eye than in my right.
Later on, I had another massive infection but this time it was my own fault. I started wearing contacts around the age of fifteen. For awhile, everything went smoothly with them. I remembered to take them off at night and also to clean them with saline solution if I noticed any dirt on them. However, once when I was at my father’s house in Fresh Meadows, I noticed that he did not have any spare saline solution I could put my contacts in. Being the creative fifteen year old I was, I decided to improvise. Instead of using the right solution, I decided to leave my contacts in just plain water for the night. “Why not?”, I thought. “It’s just water anyway!”. I never considered that maybe the water could have bacteria.
The next day, I put my contaminated contacts in and went about my day as usual. Nothing happened until I accidently fell asleep with the dirty contacts in. Sometimes I fall asleep watching television and, unfortunately, I had done so while still wearing my contacts. When I woke up, my eyes were very red and looked infected. I then took my contacts out and wore my glasses the rest of the day. It hurt my eyes to look at light. I remember trying to get my dad to take me to the doctor but he said I should just wait it out. He even put in some eye steroids he had to help clear up the inflammation. Unfortunately, it only made my eye feel more irritated and red.
When I went back upstate to my mother’s house, she still didn’t take me to the doctor! She tried to shine a flashlight in my eye but the light hurt too badly so I just shut my eye. It was only when my eye started oozing pus a few days later that she decided to rush me to the emergency room. Both my parents probably thought that the infection would clear up on its own. I remember feeling pretty angry because there was something clearly wrong with my right eye. My parents were never the coddling type but I still think they should have paid more attention and taken me to the hospital earlier. It could possibly have led to less damage to my right eye. Today they feel that they made a mistake in not acting more quickly but my mother blames my father more since he gave me eye steroids that were not even prescribed. She regrets she wasn’t more aware of what was really going on with my eye, which caused her to not act as quickly as she could have. She did not feel that much urgency because, at first, it looked just like pink eye.
While I was in the emergency room, I was put in a hospital bed and an opthamologist was called in to give me emergency antibiotic drops to help clear up the infection. When she saw my red and oozing eye, she was in shock and brought my mother and stepfather outside for a serious talk. When I heard the words “brain” and “aggressive”, my heart started racing and I definitely had a mini panic attack. When she came back out, she quietly explained to me that this was the worst eye infection she had seen throughout her years of practice and that it was a very aggressive kind of bacteria. I did feel pretty shocked at those words since I figured she must have seen worse things in her life as an ophthalmologist; she looked to be about fifty years old. After she put some drops in my eye, I was sent home and was given instructions to put drops in every hour for six hours. That night, I did not sleep and my mother or stepfather came in every hour to help me put drops in my eye. The atmosphere in general that night was very tense because none of us were certain if I was going to lose my eye or not.
After a week of recovery and plenty of drops, my ordeal with the infection finally ended. I did not lose total vision in that eye. However, I did end up with a pretty extensive corneal scar from the ulcer I had and a cataract from all the eye steroids I had to take to put in to combat the inflammation. The scar does interfere with my life and it affects both my vision and balance since one side of my vision is very different from the other, even with glasses on. Sometimes it causes me to trip over things because my field of vision is more limited. Once, I tripped downstairs because I did not notice a handrail on my right hand side. I also have a harder time with hand-eye coordination and focusing on objects. Typically, a normal-sighted person has a similar quality of vision in both eyes and this makes it a lot easier to focus on an object. Usually, the vision in both eyes will combine to create an image. Since one of my eyes is much stronger than the other, my eyes don’t really do this and causes me to have a lack of depth perception.
Like with many other handicaps, I have had to adjust my life around living with impaired vision. For example, I try to use my left eye more and pay more attention to my surroundings. When I have to aim at something, I also close my right eye and then my left eye so I can throw it more accurately; this allows me to account for the discrepancy in my vision. Since I don’t have normal vision anymore, I have to do things like constantly look around when crossing the street and turning my head more so see things more clearly on my right side. I do have some limited vision on my right side so I do sometimes use my right eye but this becomes much harder at night. At night, I try to have someone walk with me or be with friends. I never listen to music or text with my phone because I have limited vision; all my senses need to be uninhibited when I am out. Besides having to be more aware, I also go to the eye doctor at least twice a year and, more recently, I have to have an iridotomy procedure once a year. The iridotomy itself is not a very painful procedure and only takes a few minutes. My regular eye doctor, Dr. Richard Gibraltar, keeps track of my eye pressure as well as the growth of my cataract, which I will probably eventually have to get removed.
However, I am glad that I have at least some vision and have not been pronounced legally blind. The situation I have been placed in has made me cherish what vision I do have left, and I am happy that I can still do the things that I enjoy, such as reading and watching movies. If I got an infection in both my eyes, my life would be even more limited and I would be very depressed with having blurry vision in both eyes. Thankfully, with some stroke of luck, only one of my eyes got an ulcer that day and not the other. Even though I wish I never had an infection in the first place, I would not be the strong person I am today if I never went through that painful experience. It is kind of an odd way to think but I feel that vision is so valuable and even seeing colors is a gift. I could not imagine living in a totally blind world or a world where all images are distorted from scarring in both eyes. Many people take vision for granted but, after you almost lose it, it changes your whole perspective.
Lee, Jong, Jung Lee, and Kyoo Lee. “Prognostic Factors for the Success of Laser Iridotomy for Acute Primary Angle Closure Glaucoma.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 4 Dec. 2009. Web. 11 May 2014. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2789954/>.
“Uveitis.” Risk factors. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 May 2014.